Self-publishing an ebook decisions

This post is the thirty-eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, we talked about making sure your novel is ready to publish and then went over traditional publishing houses as well as taking the option to self-publish a physical copy of your book. But nowadays so many people have an e-book reader or e-book reader app that it might be worth it not to publish a physical copy of your book and only publish an electronic version.

Now with any self-published book, you, the author, make all the decisions. In the next couple of weeks, we will be going over these areas in more depth.

Cover

One of the most important aspects of selling your book is to have a good, eye-catching cover. Even though you will be selling online instead of a brick-and-mortar store, many readers select their books based on appearance.

While some authors are skilled enough to design their own cover, I would highly recommend that you have a professional do it. And go to one that is going to custom design a cover for your book rather than just one that will take a stock cover and add your name and title.

Book Blurb

Just like paperbacks have descriptions on the back cover, your e-book will need an enticing blurb. This is the second most important aspect after the cover. Your cool, awesome cover made the reader click on your book link. Now it is up to the book blurb to seal the deal.

Please take a lot of time when writing the blurb. Don’t just jot down something quickly. Go read book blurbs and decide what works. After you write yours, polish it just like you did your novel. It needs to shine!

Content

There is much more to having a novel than just the story. You need front matter (cover page, copyright page and perhaps a table of contents or dedication page) as well as the back matter (a biography and list of other books you have written and perhaps even an excerpt of another book).

Formatting

This is one of the trickiest parts of preparing your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It clears out many of the problems that you didn’t even know existed. If you aren’t completely savvy in the ways of computers, please elicit or hire help for this step. Formatting effects how your novel appears on e-book readers so it is an important step in allowing readers to enjoy your writing.

Distribution

Once you have a properly formatted book, you are ready to self-publish it. And to begin, you should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. They offer step-by-step instructions on offering your book on their website. You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your e-book. If you approve it, your book will be sold in all markets from the UK to Japan and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. They also offer a program called KDP Select where you exclusively allow them to publish your book. It is up to you to decide if being only found in the largest e-book retailer will benefit you more than having your book available at ALL e-book retailers. (You can opt to do KDP Select for a limited time.)

Smashwords  offers a way to publish your work with many distributors from Amazon to Barnes & Noble and iTunes and many other e-book retailers. It can save you time from having to do each distributor individually though since you are paid through Smashwords instead of directly from the otherretailers,s there is a slight lag in payment processing.

So there is a brief overview of some of the topics that are to come, but we will also be covering selecting a title, pen names, author bios, author websites and more so stay tuned!

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

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KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.